MLA for Kootenay East Tom Shypitka was due to meet with Elk Valley doctors on Wednesday to discuss access issues with Alberta. Pictured is Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. Wikipedia photo

MLA to discuss Alberta referral process with Elk Valley doctors

Billing issues not to blame for B.C. patients refused healthcare in Alberta: Ministry of Health

Billing issues are not to blame for an increasing number of B.C. patients refused healthcare in Alberta, according to the B.C. Ministry of Health.

A Ministry spokeswoman has confirmed funds continue to flow between B.C. and Alberta, despite suggestions payment delays may be causing access issues for those wishing to receive treatment across the border.

However, the Ministry is yet to respond to other questions posed by The Free Press on December 5.

LOOK BACK: Hosmer woman victim of a broken health system

It comes as a coalition of MLAs, including Kootenay East representative Tom Shypitka, works to find a long-term solution to patients being refused non-emergency treatment in Alberta and instead referred to Kelowna or Vancouver, up to 12 hours’ drive away for those living in the Elk Valley.

“In a country of universal healthcare, borders shouldn’t really matter on accessing proper healthcare. I think we’ve got a legitimate beef here, so we’re going to work really hard to resolve it,” Shypitka told The Free Press on Friday.

Earlier this month, Shypitka called for testimonals to take to the Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, who he will again meet with in the new year.

LOOK BACK: Elk Valley patients running into Alberta healthcare roadblocks

Shypitka said the response has been “incredible”.

“It’s been heart-wrenching sometimes to read some of these things, we take it very seriously and we’re getting good and bad,” he said.

“I think the main thing here is it’s not an issue with healthcare per se, it’s an issue with accessing healthcare and accessing something that’s close, and financially reasonable.”

Shypitka said he has had some success working with the B.C. Ministry of Health to reroute patients referred to Kelowna or Vancouver to Calgary.

He was due to meet with local health professionals in Fernie on Wednesday to try to glean more information about the referral process.

“We’re trying to find a trend of some sort with these doctors and also just to find some testimonials. They have one-on-one relationships with other physicians in Alberta, so I may be able to get something out of them that I’m not able to get through the Ministry,” he said.

“It’s just more of an outreach to find out what they’re going through and some of the grievances they have.”

Overburdened health services have been cited as one reason patients are being denied access to some types of healthcare in Alberta.

If that’s the case, Shypitka believes the Province of British Columbia should provide financial assistance to patients who live close to the B.C.-Alberta border, but are forced to travel to Kelowna or Vancouver to receive treatment.

He said another option could be reducing the need to travel by recruiting more specialists.

“…but that’s a tough one too because if we don’t have the volume, a specialized physician won’t move here,” he said.

“It’s a real conundrum, it’s not as easy as saying just hire more doctors.”

Elkford Mayor and Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board (KERHD) Chair, Dean McKerracher, also believes improving local services could reduce demand for interprovincial care.

“When we do the master plan study for our regional hospital in Cranbrook, I would like to add to the study to see what more we could do for our regional patients,” he said.

According to McKerracher, a lack of access to Alberta health services has been an issue for years.

He fears it is bigger than it appears and is concerned about the wellbeing of Elkford residents, as well as their East Kootenay neighbours.

“The only information I am getting is the cardiovascular surgeons are overworked and have a backlog of Alberta patients. therefore they are not accepting B.C. patients,” he said.

“There has been a suggestion that we raise the issue at the AKBLG convention to move a motion that the Minister of Health be requested to meet with the Alberta Minister of Health. This is one avenue we can take but it will be a lengthy process.”

Shypitka encouraged anyone encountering access issues to contact his office via 250-356-1631 or tom.shypitka.MLA@leg.bc.ca.

“Call us and maybe we can help, maybe we can phone the Ministry and case by case, until we get the solution… we can help out and maybe get you redirected to Alberta,” he said.

“I can’t promise anything but where there’s a will there’s a way, and we’ve got a lot of will here in our office.”

Just Posted

Youth charged in FAR equipment theft

Alberta RCMP recovered $17,000 in skis/snowboards believed to be stolen from Fernie Alpine Resort

Firefighter calendar raises $5000 for FWRC

The proceeds from Fernie Fire Rescue’s charity calendar will ensure women in… Continue reading

Fernie joins global celebration of women

SheJumps co-founder inspires at inaugural International Women’s Snow Day celebration in Fernie

Glory for Fernie Ghostriders in four-point weekend

Riders back at home on January 25-26 for games against the Kimberley Dynamiters and Nelson Leafs

Crowsnest Pass RCMP seek help locating missing man

58-year-old Stuart David Duff was last seen on Jan. 6, 2019.

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Former Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay voted into Baseball Hall of Fame

M’s legend Edgar Martinez, Rivera, Mussina also make the grade

Why would the B.C. legislature need a firewood splitter?

First sign of police involvement in investigation of top managers

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Judge annuls hairdresser’s forced marriage to boss’ relative

Woman was told she’d be fired if she didn’t marry boss’s Indian relative so he could immigrate here

Liberals look to make home-buying more affordable for millennials: Morneau

Housing is expected to be a prominent campaign issue ahead of October’s federal election

Cannabis-carrying border crossers could be hit with fines under coming system

Penalties are slated to be in place some time next year

Man accused of threatening to kill ‘as many girls as I see’

Christopher W. Cleary wrote he was angry because he’d never had a girlfriend and wanted to ‘make it right’ with a mass shooting

Most Read